My Name is Leon is a book to be admired. The plot is topical and interesting. It even does not pander to the reader and I liked that but it had one glaring fault.
The novel’s main theme focuses on mixed race children and adoption. The main protagonist, Leon is an example. His dad is from the west indies, but abandons his white mother when he finds out that she has had a child from a white man. Eventually both Leon and his brother are fostered.
From then onwards My Name is Leon is about Leon’s trials and tribulations of living with a foster mother. There are gritty moments, some funny ones but there melodrama dominates, usually this bothers me but I didn’t mind here. The book takes place in 1981 so there are pop cultural references from that year, which I thought was ok. Kit de Waal is a social worker and you can tell that her knowledge of the subject is precise and My Name is Leon has an authentic vibe.
My gripe with this novel is a glaring one: it is badly written. I could not stand the writing style. It annoyed me and at times I found it frustrating and spoiled my enjoyment of the novel. Hence the three stars.
A pity because this would have been a first class book. All I can say is that this will be an excellent movie due to the fact that de Waal cleverly puts a background character in the forefront and gives them an important role which you would not expect, this technique translates very well on screen. Get Ken Loach to adapt this and maybe it will have a second life.